I want you to imagine your very first best friend… who was she? How old were you? Do you have her name in mind, her face? Maybe you were in elementary school and she was the girl who lived next door. Maybe you were in middle school and she was the girl who introduced herself to you at lunch time and you are still friends to this day. Maybe you met over coffee because you had kids similar in age and you’ve been inseparable ever since.
I hope this memory makes you smile.
With your eyes closed I want you to imagine… the first friend who ever betrayed you… she certainly has a name, can you remember what the offence was? Do you remember how sad you were…
Now I want you to imagine the first friend you betrayed, let down or walked away from… do you have her name or their names and faces in your mind? I do….
I want you to think of your best friend now, she might be the same person in previous thought – she’s hopefully gone through some tough times with you and she’s, no doubt, in it for the long haul. She might even be they --- maybe you have more than one best girlfriend… sometimes it takes a team to deal with our personalities…
Maybe you’ve never had a best girlfriend or girlfriends. Maybe you struggle inside those relationships. Maybe girls are too catty, too drama filled, too self-centered, too uninterested, too interested… whatever, a girl friendship is just not for you.
Friendship isn’t easy, is it? Do we know how to be a good friend? Is it worth it? Do friendship and fellowship intertwine? There’s always expectations… reasonable and unreasonable… what do we do?
I can’t answer that because I still struggle myself. I picked this topic of friendships because I thought I was good at it… I thought God had been leading me towards these relationships… and I found out through this process that I have a lot to learn.
These past two years God has worked on my heart and opened my eyes to friendships and the relationships we have as women in a new way. He’s opened my eyes to the ways we treat one another – openly and in the private places.
I have witnessed gossip and gossiped myself. I have been the betrayer and the betrayed… I can name for you… who my very first best friend was, who I had utterly let down and who could not be there for me in the toughest moments.
In this time, God has strengthened some of my relationships while allowing others to fade. He’s made me weak and venerable. He’s taken me places I never thought I would have to be, relying on people I never imagined relying on.
God intended for us… as believers to be a community. One that would strengthen, teach, train and raise; shoulder burdens and carry loads. We were never meant to dwell in this life alone, without a team… a family… a very big family.
We have the perfect example of what biblical sisterhood of the faith looks like. We have Ruth and Naomi… this seemingly simple relationship changed my heart.
Agape Love… Jesus’ Love for us… the way we’re supposed to love one another, as He first loved us…
The first five verses in the first chapter of Ruth tell us so much. First it tells us that a man of Bethlehem took his wife and two sons to the country of Moab and they dwelled there, then Naomi's husband died. She was then left with her two boys and they took wives, women of Moab, Orpah and Ruth and they dwelt there for 10 years and then the boys died. We are left with these three women.
The name Ruth means companion or friend and the name Naomi means my joy, my bliss or pleasantness.
There is a Hebrew word - Hesed. This word is used in scripture to define how God loves his people. This word means loving kindness and implied loyalty... this word acknowledges this love as one that goes beyond measure, rather than measure for measure. Human love routinely calls for love measure for measure. God's love goes BEYOND measure.
I find it powerful and meaningful that this type of love is called out in story of such brokenness and friendship. In my mind it’s an example of how sisters in Christ should love one another.
We find Hesed here... After the death of her sons, Naomi makes a gesture to release her daughters-in-law. She has nothing for them, no more sons for them to marry and since women could not own land there wasn’t much of a future for them. Naomi knew this and rather than saddling her daughters in law she lets them go.
In her own love beyond measure she tells them to return to their mothers… and blesses them; “May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. May the Lord grant that you may find rest...” and she kisses them.
The girls wept and lifted their voices - They protested. I believe they both loved her but Naomi made a compelling argument and Orpah wept, kissed her mother in law and left… BUT Ruth… Ruth… Ruth clung to her (vs. 14) and said to her, “Please don’t tell me to leave you and return home! I will go where you go, I will live where you live; your people will be my people, your God will be my God. I will die where you die and be buried beside you. May the Lord punish me if we are ever separated, even by death.”
The account of this relationship goes on, as does God’s provision for them. He had a plan… He never left them…
What makes women bond like that? Where does that kind of love and devotion come from? What is a sisterhood in Christ? What is fellowship among believers?
It's the conversations had around a coffee table on Sunday morning. It's movie dates and picnic blankets. It's phone calls specifically scheduled for prayer time. It's that call from a treasured friend who lets you know her child is in the hospital and she is ok to sit alone, but she doesn't know how long she's going to have to sit alone, so, without asking - the sisterhood quietly joins her - to hold her hand, to make her laugh, to pray in the scary waiting moments and to act as a pillar, to allow her to lean in when the ground gives way.